Columbus, Ohio – In 2005, when Florida was considering its insane stand-your-ground-or-perhaps-chase-down-an-innocent-black-teenager-and-shoot-him law, state senator Dan Gelber was a voice of reason. Gelber, when asked what he thought of legislation that would transmogrify many a heat-packing Floridian into a juiced-up Judge Dredd, posed some questions of his own.
When you think someone “looks at your wife” the wrong way or “spills coffee on you”, should the message be “to walk away, or do we tell them that you’re supposed to stand your ground and fight to the death?” According to NRA troll/super-lobbyist Marion Hammer, the supposedly smart Bush who was governor at the time (Jeb) and state senator Dennis Baxley – a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans who likes racial slurs in state songs and wants to remember the great Lost Cause on licence plates – the answer was, of course, shoot – to kill.
But the bigger story here is the alliance of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – a secretive, corporate-sponsored clearinghouse for ideas that are dopey enough to be purchased by the pound – and the National Rifle Association (NRA). It’s a marriage made in Hades to pass legislation that seemingly anyone with any background in law enforcement or understanding of this nation’s history knew would lead to a predictable outcome: “racially motivated killings”.
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Because, you see, this is not a bug, but a feature. Both ALEC and the NRA exist to support the whims and wants of privileged and largely white members of society, while disenfranchising, impoverishing and even allowing people like 17-year-old Trayvon Martin – who was shot and killed last month by George Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch volunteer – to be gunned down in cold blood. Racism is at their very core.
ALEC is behind a nationwide push to take voting rights away from African Americans and any other group that doesn’t largely vote for creepily religious, corporate Republicans advocating wish-list items such as a creationist, Halliburton-constructed lunar colony or the deregulation of melamine and morphine-based infant formula.
As writer Ari Berman pointed out in a piece called “The GOP’s War On Voting“, there has been “a systematic campaign orchestrated by the American Legislative Exchange Council – and funded in part by David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who bankrolled the Tea Party – 38 states… this year designed to impede voters at every step of the electoral process”. Who are we talking about here? “Millions of students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly,” according to Berman, or people you might hesitate to call the “Santorum demographic”.
These very same ALECites have been (coincidentally, of course), pushing for tort reform bills in states throughout the country, which have been proven again and again to disproportionately hurt the poor and minorities while protecting corporate bottom lines. Meanwhile, “racial issues” and stereotyping have been used by ALEC to push for tort reform, the very same play on white fear that is the pitch of the NRA to convince anyone, no matter how unstable or criminally inclined, to buy more guns.
Part of this pitch has used the first black President (“Communist-trained!”) to inform their most ardent and paranoid members of secret plots (“massive Obama conspiracy!”) to take away their guns (the ones they can now take into national parks and in luggage on Amtrak, because of bills President Obama signed into law). Their day-to-day coded language about protecting “your way of life” or property from invading hordes has obvious connotations to anyone with a few neurons still firing.
Meanwhile, the NRA’s Board of Directors is filled with people who have made troubling comments on race. There’s intellectual wretch Ted Nugent, who has problems with the “Dark Continent” of Africa because no country there “truly respects freedom or the rule of law”. Then there’s Wayne Anthony Ross, who published an editorial saying an art student who made a statue of a Ku Klux Klan figure deserved an “‘A’ for courage”.
And in September 2011, NRA board member John Sigler spoke at a rally hosted by radio personality Bill Colley, who three days earlier had accused President Obama’s mother of travelling the world “to meet up with ‘savages’ and civilising them in the sack! Her efforts even created a President of the United States”.
These are not the exception, as the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has made abundantly clear on their “Who Is The NRA Leadership” website.
Nor is Trayvon Martin the exception. He is the rule: collateral damage of a quite open and obvious agenda for anyone willing to take a look.
Cliff Schecter is the President of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm, and the author of the 2008 bestseller The Real McCain.
Follow him on Twitter: @Cliffschecter